Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/223

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ORIGIN OF THE DAMARAS.

testimony of many of the natives, I have had the satisfaction, on comparing my notes with those of the missionaries, to find them agree in the main; and as it has been my fate to witness the complete ruin and downfall of the Damaras—who, probably, before another century has passed away will be forgotten—I think that a connected and somewhat detailed description of their history may not be unacceptable to the general reader.

That the Damaras have not resided for any length of time in the country which they now occupy is quite certain, though whence they came is doubtful. Some of these people point to the north as their original home; others conjecture that they migrated from the northeast.[1] Be this as it may, it would appear quite certain that about seventy years ago not a Damara was to be found south of the Kaoko, but that, at some time within this period, they invaded the country, then inhabited by Bushmen and Hill-Damaras, the last being in all probability the aborigines. Not having a warlike disposition, the Hill-Damaras were easily subdued, and those who were not killed were made captives. The few that escaped took refuge among the mountains, or other inhospitable and inaccessible regions, where they are still found dragging on a most miserable and degraded existence.

The Damaras were once, undoubtedly, a great nation; but, unlike others which gradually become powerful by the union of a number of smaller tribes under the head of a single chief or king, they have dwindled into an endless number of petty tribes, ruled by as many chiefs.

  1. In my journey to the Lake Ngami at an after period, I observed whole forests of a species of tree called Omumborombonga, the supposed progenitor of the Damaras. This fact, coupled with our knowledge that all the tribes to the north are more or less conversant with agriculture, of which the Damaras know nothing (having no word in their language for cereal food), and that many of the nations to the east are partly pastoral, would seem to indicate a northeast or east direction as their original home.